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Frustrations with flat genoise
Posted: 01 May 2011 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Lately, I’ve been cranking out flat genoise about 1 inch high, one after the other. I think the highest I’ve ever achieved was 1.5 in., and that was when I forgot the add the butter. Every time I fill the cake pan, the batter barely gets half full. I have been trying to get the root of the problem, and so far, I have tried…

- getting a ~$300 5 qt. KitchenAid mixer (Works great. I used to beat genoise by hand.)
- getting the expensive giant Matfer balloon whisk (It seems a little awkward using it in the KitchenAid 5 qt bowl. I don’t know if it really helps.)
- beating the eggs on the highest speed of the mixer (I didn’t quite use the full speed when I first tried out my mixer on the genoise, and then I saw Rose’s instruction to use the highest speed afterwards.)

I use superfine sugar, and I measure my eggs by volume (3/4 c). Unfortunately, I don’t have a scale, and that may be an issue. However, I don’t want to spend more money just yet only to find out that I still can’t make a genoise.

I think I’ve overheated my eggs in the past. Today, I heated the eggs just until they felt a bit warm to the touch. But, I noticed that they achieved less volume than usual after the 5 minute beating. I read the section on genoise in Shirley Corriher’s Bakewise, and I think next time, I will use a thermometer and try to get between 86 to 90 degrees F on the eggs.

I hope someone can also offer me some advice on what else may be wrong. Perhaps it may be my folding technique. I’ve watched Rose’s videos so many times though. I don’t think I’ll get any more insight out of them.

Also, has anyone ever considered how Rose’s genoise recipe even works? According to Shirley Corriher, beating on medium speed for a long time (at least 10 minutes) is required for maximum stability of the egg foam. Rose’s genoise requires only 5 minutes on high speed. Then, the batter is supposed to fill a 9x2 pan 2/3 full. A 9x2 pan is 8 2/3 c. in volume, so 2/3 would be 5.78 c. The volume of the eggs is 3/4 c. Assuming they quadruple, the final volume of the eggs would be 3 c. The recipe also has 1/2 c sugar, 1/2 c. cake flour, ~1/2 c. cornstarch. Of course the volume actually deflates a little bit when you add the flour/cornstarch, and even without deflation, adding the cornstarch/flour probably wouldn’t increase volume linearly. But let’s overestimate and assume that adding 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. cake flour, 1/2 c. cornstarch increases the volume of the batter by 1.5 c. Then the final volume of the batter would be 4.5 c., which would fill the pan about half full, not 2/3 full. Since this is obviously an overestimate, the batter would realistically not even fill the pan half way, which is what always happens to me.

If you look at Rose’s genoise video (the PBS one, part 2), when she fills the pan with the batter, I don’t think that looks 2/3 full. At most it is half full. I know many have used this recipe with success, but I wonder how success is possible, when theoretical considerations don’t look very favorable.

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Posted: 01 May 2011 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can offer no help here at all, but I wanted to say I am fascinated by your post and really look forward to hearing responses!

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Posted: 01 May 2011 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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michaelnrdx - 01 May 2011 07:46 AM

If you look at Rose?s genoise video (the PBS one, part 2), when she fills the pan with the batter, I don?t think that looks 2/3 full. At most it is half full. I know many have used this recipe with success, but I wonder how success is possible, when theoretical considerations don?t look very favorable.

I use Corriher’s technique, but it is pretty hard core compared with just about every one else’s technique, so I can’t imagine that it’s very critical. You might consider adding the flour and butter with the mixer on the lowest setting (fold).  This works well for me.  But do weigh your eggs….you might have a perfect genoise, just a smaller one.

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Posted: 01 May 2011 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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michaelnrdx - 01 May 2011 07:46 AM

I measure my eggs by volume (3/4 c)

It’s possible that you’re not getting enough yolk in your egg mixture.  Rose’s recipe calls for whole eggs, but was developed several decades ago when eggs generally had larger yolks than they do now.  And yolks add a lot of stability to a genoise foam.  There could also be an issue with the accuracy of your volume measure.

I think next time, I will use a thermometer and try to get between 86 to 90 degrees F on the eggs.

If I remember correctly, Corriher says that this is the ideal temp for beating the eggs, but unless your kitchen is very warm you’ll need to heat the eggs higher than this temp because as they whip they will mix with the air temp and cool.  Also, warming the eggs helps the sugar dissolve.  I normally heat mine to about 110-115F, as my kitchen is rarely above 66-70F. 

I hope someone can also offer me some advice on what else may be wrong. Perhaps it may be my folding technique.

This is a very good thing to focus on.  Make sure enough of the foam is mixed with the butter to lighten it, and that you are sifting the dry ingredients twice- once onto the paper and once as you are putting them into the bowl to be folded (two batches).  After that, it’s a matter of folding everything as little as possible while still getting adequate mixing.  No matter how much stability you try to whip into your egg foam, even one or two extra passes with the whisk will take some of the height out of your genoise.

If you look at Rose’s genoise video (the PBS one, part 2), when she fills the pan with the batter, I don’t think that looks 2/3 full. At most it is half full. I know many have used this recipe with success, but I wonder how success is possible, when theoretical considerations don’t look very favorable.

There are several different pans listed with her genoise in the Cake Bible, so it’s a little unclear which pans will be filled to the 2/3 level.  Also, that level is just an estimate, “about 2/3”.  In RHC, where her genoise is updated (White Gold Passion Genoise, p.174), she says that the egg foam should more than quadruple and that a 9x2 pan should be “a little more than half full” if you are using the cake flour/cornstarch mixture.

Hope that helps.

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Posted: 01 May 2011 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi Julie,

Thank you for the tips. I think I’ll try a few of these things next time…

Eggs: I have been using small eggs that have small yolks, so maybe I have been getting an unstable foam. Shirley Corriher adds extra yolks to her genoise for extra stability, and from my experience with the golden genoise, it was much much easier than the genoise classique. The batter didn’t deflate at all when I folded in the flour! But before I get myself a scale, I think I will go to the farmer’s market and buy some good quality large eggs, and see how that affects the cake.

Temperature: Corriher’s recipe actually says to heat the mixture to 86-90 deg. F, because then most of the beating would be between 75-80 degrees, the ideal temp. for foam stability. This is assuming a room temp. of 70 deg. My kitchen temp is usually 65 to 70 deg. Can anyone else recommend a temperature range that worked well?

Folding: I’ll try to fold as little as possible. I think I mix enough batter with the butter to lighten it. What I usually do is pour the clarified browned butter (strained of solids) into my Pyrex measuring cup then add enough batter to get to the 1 cup mark. Then I whisk until mixed. The volume decreases to 1/2 c. after this. Does this sound right?

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Posted: 01 May 2011 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My heart goes out to you….I’ve battled the genoise for so long too…and I’ve done many of the same things.  I bought the giant Matfer whisk, thermapen thermometer, Dot 2 thermometer, chicago metallic baking pans, an assortment of cake flours, the My Weigh scale, hmmn…what else…and my genoise are never as high as indicated.  I notice significant volume reduction when folding in the latter part of the flour mixture, so I suspect it may have to do with my folding technique or inadequate egg stability.  Every once in a while, one is ok ... but never the full 1.5+ inches in height.  If you ever get this sorted out pass it on my way. 

NB - I can bake just about anything else!  Mouselline buttercream—no problem! But genoise is my nemesis!!  Could we get a cake whisperer out there?  Perhaps it’s my “energy”?

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Posted: 01 May 2011 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Just a newby here, but I think the problem may lie in unpredictable proportions of yolks to whites in large eggs.  I credit my recent success with my first Biscuit de Savoie to weighing the yolks and whites separately.  TCB says 8 large eggs: yolks equaling 150 grams and whites equaling 240 grams.  As the recipe is so specific, I did the weighing and found that the 8 large eggs I used were endowed by neither nature nor the egg factory with the required proportions of yolks to whites at all!  As I recall, I had to remove some white and break another egg and add some yolk. Genoise doesn’t require yolks and whites beaten separately, so it’s sensible that separate measurements are not mentioned.  But according to my experience, varying proportions of yolks to whites in large eggs may be a factor here.  I was planning on making some kind of genoise next.  Both Classique and White Gold Passion require 4 large eggs, measurement of yolks and whites unspecified.  But I think I’ll rely on the proportions given in TCB’s Biscuit.  I’ll just cut the 8-egg proportions in half.  I’ll use 75 grams of yolks and 120 grams of whites.  Of course, my genoise will probably fail for any one of a million other reasons!!

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Posted: 01 May 2011 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It seems like it would be more sensible to measure the yolks and whites separately for genoise. The problem is that the recipe for Genoise Classique only gives the weight for whole eggs. Should I look up the weights of the yolks and whites in Rose’s table of measurements and convert? Not sure if this would be accurate. Also, I am not getting a scale any time soon, so I will most likely be measuring the yolks and whites by volume.

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Posted: 01 May 2011 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Hi, Michael!

Egg = 30g white, 20g yolk.
You can get a great scale for only $25 - an escali.  I use it and love it. 

It’s not perfect design-wise—if you put a big bowl on it, it obscures the weight, so sometimes I put a smaller bowl on it and a big bowl on that, but it’s very accurate and has served me well with no issues for over a year so far.  But it’s a good price, as I know you don’t want to spend a whole lot right now—and it’s cheap enough that if you want to replace it in a year or so, it’s no great investment.

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Posted: 01 May 2011 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’ve bought scales for less than that, even. They seem to work fine for me, and I wouldn’t be without them. I say “scales” because I still have my original at home, needed another one when I was living out of town for a few months, and bought a 3rd for a friend. Once you have a scale you won’t look back. No more wondering “did I just put in 1 1/3 cup flour or 1 2/3 flour.” I get distracted, so my scale is my best friend. I also use it whenever I make pasta or noodles, and it is also invaluable for weighing yarn (to see how much you’ve used, i.e. - have I used up half yet). You can even weigh it to make up food portions if you’re planning your calories.

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Posted: 02 May 2011 01:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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this is a great discussion and I don’t want to sound negative.  I never had a genoise fail on me from Cake Bible.  The recipe is well tested and all the instructions are given.  it is a cake that requires specialized equipment and ingredients.  if you don’t have these, THERE is the reason of different results.

oven thermometers, digital probe thermometers, electronic scales are now inexpensive and accurate. honestly, I would t
start baking cake without these.

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Posted: 02 May 2011 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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One of these days, I might just video record me making the genoise so someone can identify what’s gone wrong! I think all of us who’ve ever failed a genoise should post our videos on Youtube, so we can all figure it out!

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Posted: 02 May 2011 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Great idea, Michael. I’ve always wished I could have a professional “folding” lesson. I’d be willing to pay well for such a thing.

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Posted: 02 May 2011 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I think as long as you’re not using a scale for the eggs, you should just focus on your folding skills.  Aside from that, maybe cut yourself some slack in expecting your genoise to come out exactly as Rose’s does.  You do need exceptional folding skills as well as weighed ingredients, accurate oven temp, right pan size, etc.- in short everything needs to be just right to get the same results.

When I’m making something where the yolk:white ratio is important, I generally use XL eggs to get a yolk that’s about the right size, then remove whites to bring it down to the right amount.  XL whites are pretty big, I normally need to remove a lot (or leave one white out). 

Thanks for the correction of the beating temp- it’s been a while since I’ve read Bakewise.  Anyway, 110F works for me for genoise. 

Good luck!

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Posted: 02 May 2011 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I wish I could attribute white/yolk imbalance to my mess ups, but my trials are with the golden genoise…so no whites there!  I love Rose’s recipes…they are so detailed, it’s really hard to mess up for the majority of them ... but the genoise is a little finnicky.  I love the idea about a video post of our trials and then we could get some constructive feedback.

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Posted: 02 May 2011 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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XL eggs sounds like a good idea. Technique and scale aside, I’m pretty sure I have everything else—accurate oven temp (Well, my oven is two degrees off, last time I tested with a calibrated thermometer, but I can adjust), Matfer whisk, a good aluminum 9x2 pan, and finally a mixer! I do want to get a scale, and maybe I’ll get one around Christmas or New Year. But for now, I’m going to try to eliminate other sources of error first. I definitely know my folding skills are not up to par. Does anyone else use the Matfer whisk in the KitchenAid 5 qt mixing bowl? The bowl is a little narrow, and it seems a little awkward to use the whisk in it. I mean, the whisk still fits in the bowl with some extra space left, but it feels a little crowded.

@Sherrie: I’ve only made the golden genoise once, and I used a 9x1.5 pan instead of the suggested 9x2. The batter almost overflowed as it expanded, but it worked and came out pretty tall. Maybe my success was just an illusion and it wouldn’t have turned out so well if I used the 9x2? However, what I did notice was that, whereas the batter for genoise classique deflates visibly when folding in the flour, the golden genoise didn’t deflate at all! And in both cases, I used the same crappy folding technique, unweighed ingredients, etc. It makes sense that the golden genoise would be more stable, since it is an all-yolk foam. I wonder if other people had the same experience. I do want to try the golden genoise again in the 9x2, but it would be a tragedy if it failed and I wasted all those yolks!

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